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What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?
Kevin Cleary

Finding muscle relaxation without pharmaceutical help may seem difficult, even impossible. One technique you may want to explore is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). This technique can provide pain relief and better sleep without potentially dangerous prescription drugs. The relationship between the mind and body is the idea behind PMR.  

When your body or mind responds to the surrounding environment, it can result in anxiety, stress, and fear, causing your muscles to tighten up. You can use Progressive Muscle Relaxation for anxiety as a way to find inner peace and relieve tense muscles.  

When we are tense, it is also very difficult to get proper rest, which is exactly what we need in order to relax. By practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation for sleep, you will be well on your way to catching the right amount of z’s.  

What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation? 

We all experience stress, which can build and cause our muscles to tense up. Who hasn't had a tension headache or tight muscles in the neck and shoulders? Often we can experience muscle tightness without even realizing it. So how do we relieve this muscle tension?  

One way is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). This therapy involves tightening and relaxing muscle groups individually and in a particular order. It's your choice whether you go from top to bottom or bottom to top. This can help you release the stress from your muscles and help you recognize what this tension feels like.  

According to the National Institutes of Health, Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Anxiety was created in the 1920s by American physician Edmund Jacobson and is based on the belief that physical relaxation can lead to mental peace.

Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

When practiced regularly, PMR can have therapeutic benefits for conditions like: 

5 Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

How Do You Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation? 

To reduce stress with PMR, you don't need any special equipment; you can do it in the comfort of your home. All you need is a quiet space where you can fully focus. PMR requires you to tighten and relax muscle groups one at a time. You can start from your feet and work your way up or vice versa. Tensing your muscles during PMR is critical since this allows you to feel the relaxation in the targeted area as you release the muscle.  

Adults aren’t the only ones with tense muscles. Children experience anxiety as well. Progressive Muscle Relaxation for kids is a great way to teach children how to handle stress now and a great practice that they can take with them as they go through the stages of their lives.

Here are the steps to follow when practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation therapy from your feet: 

  1. Start by lying down or sitting. 
  2. Take five deep breaths. 
  3. Lift your toes upward, hold, then let go.  
  4. Now point your toes downward, hold, and let go. 
  5. Next, tense up your calves, then release, 
  6. Move your knees towards each other. Hold, then release. 
  7. Contract thigh muscles. Hold, then let go, 
  8. Clench hands. Pause and then release, 
  9. Tense your arms. Hold a moment, and then let go. 
  10. Squeeze buttocks. Hold and release. 
  11. Contract abdominal muscles. Yes, you guessed it…hold and release. 
  12. Inhale, then contract your chest. Hold that breath and then exhale. 
  13. Shrug your shoulders to your ears…hold…then let go. 
  14. Purse your lips, hold, then release. 
  15. Open your mouth wide. Hold it, then let go. 
  16. Close your eyes tightly. Pause and then release. 
  17. Lift eyebrows…hold, then release. 

As you can see, this method begins at the bottom of your body and moves up, using each muscle group individually. You can feel the relaxation as you hold and then release each group by tensing and releasing each separately.  

You can also reverse the order of the Progressive Muscle Relaxation steps and begin with your eyebrows and travel downward toward your feet. It's your choice. Be sure to do this routine daily for about 15-20 minutes. Also, make certain to have interrupted, calm, peaceful surroundings, and put your phone away (it's probably where much of your stress comes from anyway!). This relaxation technique can help you release physical tension, which in turn can reduce stress and anxiety. 


Disclaimer: All content found on our website, including images, videos, infographics, and text were created solely for informational purposes. Our reviewed content should never be used for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment of any medical conditions. Content shared on our websites is not meant to be used as a substitute for advice from a certified medical professional. Reliance on the information provided on our website as a basis for patient treatment is solely at your own risk. We urge all our customers to always consult a physician or a certified medical professional before trying or using a new medical product.

HPFY Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary

Kevin Cleary has been a Health Products For You contributor for many years and has a degree in marketing. His health and wellness journey has a very personal meaning and has guided him in his content writing for HPFY.

In 2006, ...

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